For those that don’t know, we ended up in the ER last night again. Not one of our better visits, but certainly not one of our worst. We’re still trying to track down what put Christen in the hospital in September, and we’re seeing a specialist that has done a lot; lots of blood tests, several CT scans (I think three in the last few months), she’s had a colonoscopy, and yesterday she swallowed a camera (that was amazing)! I feel like we’re making progress, but she just had a bad fit of pain and nausea the last couple days that culminated yesterday. It’s the same stuff she’s been dealing with since September, but it was way worse yesterday so when we got the stuff from the camera removed (they hook the receiver box up to you like an EKG) her specialists office recommended we go to the ER.
The wait was the worst, but we knew it would be as soon as we walked in. The place was packed, every seat and wheelchair was taken and people were standing. When they checked her in (took vitals, asked about problem, gave her a wristband, etc) the nurse gave her a couple Zofran under the tongue for the nausea. They took a little of the edge off at first, but we were in the waiting room for three hours before we got called back. It wasn’t really their fault. Against all reason the place actually continued to fill while we were there. The ER actually had to throw a code purple, which basically is a call for help. They bring in additional people, send messages to other hospitals that they could use extra personnel and that the hospitals should only refer people to them if there’s no other option, etc. At the rate things were going, I was worried we’d be there until morning. I knew what kinds of tests they run on someone with severe abdominal pains and nausea (been there done that), and they take a while. The worst part is, we’d already been through all that (several times) so I thought it was going to be a big waste of time. I didn’t need to worry.
Once we finally got called back, we got to see the doctor. His name is Dr. Clever (while it looks like clever it’s said like cleaver…I still think he’s quite clever) and we’ve seen him there a few times, including when we came in for this very issue last September. To my surprise (and relief), he actually said “there are a lot of things we are really great at here in the ER; finding a diagnosis the specialist missed probably isn’t one of those things.” He continued to say that he’d like to just get Christen through this particularly bad episode so that we could continue to follow up with her specialist. I was ecstatic. He ordered an IV for fluids, morphine for the pain, and Zofran again (this time via the IV, which is much quicker acting) for the nausea.
We then went into a waiting room in the back (they definitely didn’t have any beds), hung her IV, and waited. She slowly started improving. We actually met this nice older couple, who live in Minnisota during the summer and here during the winter. The man was the one checked in, and he had never had to go to the hospital/ER/urgent care in his 73 years. All in all, he was doing pretty good and was quite an interesting person. We talked of pets, kids (they have kids and grandkids in both places, which is why they spit their time up), and even literature. He told me about this short story he had read that was written in China in the 1930s and translated to English more recently. The story was about medical procedures in the year 2002, and portrayed the doctors as shrinking themselves and travelling inside the patient to fix him from the inside.
After a while I needed some coffee (surprise surprise). Unfortunately, I know the place pretty well and I know where the coffee for the staff is, where they keep the cups, etc. I’ve been told every time that I can help myself, but I always ask anyway (buttering up the nurses with “please”, “that would be so great”, “tank you very much”, etc doesn’t hurt either…they don’t hear those phrases a lot). This time it paid off because said that the last half pot had been on a while, and asked me if they could make me a new pot! When I returned, the older man’s wife asked where she could get some, so I explained the system and took her back to get her a cup. They’d been there as long as we had, and with no coffee! I guess there are some advantages to being a regular at a place, but I’d prefer to stick to being a regular at Ground Control. It’s more fun, has better food and drink, and is less expensive!
After being in this latest waiting room for about an hour and a half, her pain and nausea were getting back to nearly manageable levels. We decided that when her IV bag was empty we’d ask to be released (they like you to talk to a doctor when we leave), but that wasn’t necessary. About 15 minutes later, when the back was about 90% gone (1000ml bag, marked with dashes in 100ml increments, so it was almost EXACTLY 90% gone), we got called back to see Dr. Clever again. Her pain and nausea were manageable, so he sent us home with a prescription for Vicodin in case she needed it.
As her pain had come down though, she had realized that she was starving. To prep for the camera, she wasn’t allowed anything but clear liquids the day before and up until noon that day. At noon she was nauseas and in pain, so she tried to eat an English muffin but couldn’t really finish. Basically, in two full days she had eaten less than one English muffin. We picked up some soup from Village Inn on the way home (there’s not much open after 10pm on a Monday).
Today she’s feeling more like she has for the last few months: “Not great, but things are manageable.” We’re definitely looking forward to the results from the camera capsule. More than ever I want it to return something definitive. I’m really sick of not knowing what’s making her sick!